A Giveaway! Win a family ticket to ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ London

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The other weekend, The Fredster and I were invited to spend an afternoon at the FABULOUS ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ in the heart of Piccadilly, central London. Using it as an opportunity to leave zone 5 and spend some rare one-to-one time with my little chap, I was excited to visit, knowing that there would be a huge amount (over 700!) exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences to check out.

Freddie really enjoys looking at all manner of weird and wonderful things- and this is where ‘Ripley’s’ really fits the bill. As a vehicle-loving kind of man, he was particularly keen to see their latest exhibit, which involves 4 wheels and a touch of bling. Enter: an incredible Mini-Cooper with over a million handcrafted Swarovski crystals and worth a cool half a million quid (yikes!). The iconic car depicts American icons including the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and The Bald Eagle. The crystals were 50 different shades (no, not like that you filthy beast ;-) ) representing the 50 states, and each stone was meticulously placed over a period of 6 months.

‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ celebrates the weird and wonderful in all its forms, and I can vouch that there is something for everyone there. As well as the car, F was super-keen on the shark attack section (weirdo), whilst I loved hearing about some of the (thankfully) outlawed body mutilation practices in different cultures (you can see where he gets it from…). Gory stuff aside, there is so much more to see and appreciate- the Marvellous Mirror Maze was a hit with both of us, and I had new-found respect for artists that created pieces that required a crazy-amount of detail (hello, the huge Tower Bridge replica made entirely of matchsticks).

The man behind the attraction, Robert Ripley, was an intrepid world traveller, cartoonist, reporter, adventurer and seeker of the most bizarre and unusual. Many of the artifacts at Ripley’s were collected by the man himself.

So… step inside a world where the bizarre and the unbelievable come to life, and amazement is waiting around every corner- from unusual art to underwater wonders, an upside down room to even a dungeon, at Ripley’s there are mind-boggling experiences for even the wildest imagination!

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ London is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year from 10am until midnight. Tickets to this world of wonders are usually £26.95 per adult and £19.95 per child. (please visit www.ripleyslondon.com for more info).

BUT

*drum roll*

I have a family ticket to ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ London up for grabs, based on 2 adults and 2 children visiting.

To enter, just leave a comment below, and tell me what has been your favourite trip out so far this summer?

You can have an extra entry by liking The Spirited Puddle Jumper Facebook page (if you haven’t already), and leaving a comment below the ‘Ripley’s’ post on the page.

Competition closes at midnight on Friday 5th September. Winner will be picked by random and notified by Monday 8th September 2014.

All terms and conditions at the bottom of this page.

Good luck!

 

*This is in partnership with ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’, but all views and thoughts are my own.

Competition entrants must be 18 years or over at time of entry. 

The voucher will be exchanged for one family Ultimate Explorer entry ticket to Ripley’s Believe it or Not! London at the admissions desk. 

A family is classed as two adults (aged 16-60 years) and two children (aged 4-15 years). All members of the party must visit together when the voucher is redeemed. 

House Renovation! The Bathroom Makeover

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When we moved into our house in early 2012, the bathroom was one of the first things that I was desperate to change. In fact, I remember saying to Adam that I would only contemplate making an offer on the house if we could do something about it immediately. Before you gasp and think that sounds rather spoiled, then please, let me explain (and show you!) why something needed to be done, and pronto:

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The old bathroom was divided into two: a bath with an electric over-bath shower and sink, and a separate toilet. The room with bath had manky old carpet, a shower that made the most terrifying sound when it was turned on (so much so that a 12 month old Freddie wouldn’t go near it when anyone was in there), an airing cupboard complete with massive water tank, and barely any room to swing a cat. I was 7 months pregnant when we first moved in, and could barely turn around at the sink when it came to brushing my teeth, and bathing F was problematic! It just wasn’t going to cut it, what with the increasing needs of a growing family.

The toilet next door was functional, even if the lino was hideous. What confirmed our need to knock the dividing wall down, was the fact that one morning, whilst spending a penny, I noticed a dark mark and slight dent on the ancient wallpaper, directly at the height of someone’s head when they were sat down. People had been resting their head there, probably for years, whilst on the shitter! It DEFINITELY had to go…

First up, we moved out for 3 months whilst this and our kitchen were completed (more on that in a post to follow). The big job re the bathroom was to move the massive hot water tank in the airing cupboard (see picture below), as we were changing to a combi-boiler. The airing cupboard was then to be ripped out, to make way for our new walk-in shower. The wall dividing both rooms was simply to be knocked down. Where you can see the door, below, this was bricked up, as the main entrance to our new bathroom was to be the original toilet door (are you following me?!).

Before…

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One of the stipulations of this bathroom makeover was that we wanted something luxurious, but that still fitted our relatively tight budget. I spent hours researching suites, as well as individual fixtures to find the best deals. In the end we decided to buy our bath, sink, toilet and towel rail separately, and have our builders fit them, as this was the cheapest way to get the look that we wanted.

I was really, really keen to have a roll top bath, and was disappointed initially to discover that these were, on average, about £600 plus in most big bathroom retailers (#sadface). My bubble wasn’t about to be burst (arf arf), after some of that late night research paid off, and I found an amazing Ebay store, based in Newcastle, who would deliver the bath and taps to us in London, all for a fraction of the price (£300 bath & delivery, £100 taps). The heated towel rail was £150 (they’re normally £300-400 in big stores). The toilet and sink were purchased from a local wholesaler for a fraction of the price, and the subway tiles and dark grout were a bulk buy from Tops Tiles.

After…

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When it came to finishing touches, and creating a look that we loved, we had to think about it from very early on due to some structural work taking place with the windows. Our builders assumed that we would want standard frosted glass for our new ones, but I had other ideas, preferring them to fit plain glass, and then measure up and purchased special patterned window film. This was quite nerve-wracking to order and then stick on, as the measurements had to be totally accurate, and one false move and the whole thing ruined- and 100 quid down the drain. I chose stars on a frosted background, and once on, was really pleased with the overall look.

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The wall colour in the bathroom is Farrow and Ball ‘Manor House Grey’. The butterfly pictures are cheap as chips and come ready-framed from an ebay store for under a tenner (there’s a theme here with where I like to shop!), and the ‘A Harey Moment’ picture is from one of my favourite interiors shops, Graham and Green, and was a bit more of a splurge for a print (about £40). We saved money in other areas, for example, by using good-quality lino for the flooring, that actually looks like dark wood until you get really up close and personal with it.

So what do you think?

I personally love it, and it’s one of my favourite rooms in our humble abode, well worth the 3 month wait for all the work in our house to be finished. The shower is such a treat to walk into first thing in the morning, and the bath is great for lounging in with a good book. On a practical note, knocking down the walls to create one big, spacious room is brilliant for when dealing with two small children at bath time- I feel very, very fortunate to have such a lovely space and I am eternally grateful for it.

Now, if someone can recommend some pretty-yet-practical storage for all those bath toys, then I’d be a really happy woman…

Joining up with Let’s Talk Mommy! and ‘Share with me’!

Bits and bobs…

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Happy Bank hols! Just a quick catch up here with a few photos of what’s been going on lately here in glorious SE London- I feel that since Freddie has been off preschool for the holidays that the time to blog can be few and far between. Nay fear though, I think a little breather is good for the soul and I’m hoping my batteries (i.e. brain) are recharged soon. Hard when you have small people who aren’t sleeping as well as we’d like right now!

I went on my Best Friend’s hen do a few weeks ago, and had the most fabulous time. We rented a canal boat in Oxford for the weekend, which was hilarious, although I think the 12 of us did a pretty good job manning the boat, considering none of us had been on one before! The weather was amazing, hence getting my (pasty) legs out here^^^ I was wondering if I was too old for dungaree shorts at 30, but to hell with convention- I fell in love with this print when I saw it, and had to snap them up (Primark, no less!).

The shot of Big Ben was taken one evening from a bus rooftop, riding from Victoria Station to the East End to join a Jack the Ripper tour. I went with my Mum, Ad’s Mum and Ad’s Aunty, and we were lucky with the weather, hence the photo op. I can highly recommend booking to on a Ripper tour- we learnt a lot, even if it was a little gruesome!

One of my little corn-on-the-cob munchers: Both F & S are big on this at the moment, so it has made many appearances at lunch and tea lately! I buy a big bag of frozen mini cobs to save on wastage, and it means they’re always to hand.

Some dairy-free baking one afternoon. Freddie and Sasha recently undertook specialist food intolerance testing, and I suspected that F in particular might come up with something due to having quite bad eczema at times. It was no surprise that both were diagnosed as being intolerant (not allergic) to cow-dairy, so have now been off it for several weeks, bar a couple of times when we’ve eaten out and there has been no alternative. It has been easier than I thought to stick to at home, as they can have goat and sheep products, plus nut milks. We bake with Goat’s butter, which is rich and delicious, and you really can’t tell the difference, especially in cakes! I have been shocked at how quickly Freddie’s eczema has cleared up, so we will definitely be sticking to the new diet for the forseeable future wherever possible.

One of my favourite photos of Mr Becky :-) I feel terrible sometimes, as I take so many pictures of the kids, that he often gets forgotten (bad wife-to-be), so it’s great when I get a really lovely one. If I had a permanent desk to work at, and not my lap/kitchen table/bed, this would totes be in a frame. He also has the best teeth (jealous).

Pretty, cotton wool clouds- simple thing that makes me happy!

I love taking pictures of spiders in webs, and we have loads of this particular type of spider in our garden right now- anyone know what they’re called?

Hope you enjoy the remainder of the weekend- rain is expected ALL day here, so I feel a day of some housey-jobs coming on, followed by games and maybe a film, often the best kind of days just to chill out. :-)

x

The Spirited Puddle Jumper’s top tips for a harmonious PR/Blogger relationship!

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A couple of weeks ago I did a guest blog for Nexus PR with tips for PRs when working with bloggers. I’ve blogged on this blog for nearly a year now, but prior to The Spirited Puddle Jumper I blogged at my old (now defunct) blog for nearly a year also.

During this time I’ve been fortunate enough to have been approached by many PR companies and brands, and these initial conversations have enabled me to attend some fantastic events, try innovative and beautiful products and given me some paid work opportunities. I’m lucky in that I have generally only had positive experience with the PRs I’ve dealt with, but you only have to talk to other bloggers, or look at your twitter feed, to realise that this isn’t the case for everyone.

Most of the advice available is aimed at bloggers, and how they can work with brands better, but there isn’t much out there with advice for PRs detailing good practice when working with bloggers, and how to make our experience a good one.

Here are some top tips I’ve compiled, aimed at the latter…

1. Make sure you read the ‘about me’ bit

The number of bloggers I chat to who have had an email from a PR hit their inbox, and it’s obvious the PR hasn’t done their homework is HUGE. I’ve had peers who have received offers of breakfast cereal, when their blog states they’re a wheat-free family, or bloggers offered breastfeeding equipment when their child is 6(!) – You get the picture. Personally, I’ve had a couple of occasions when a PR has invited my family and I to an amazing event.  I’ve then said ‘yes’ and confirmed children’s ages, only to be told my children are too young. Aside from the disappointment, it does get your back up slightly, as it shows the PR hasn’t really read the ‘About’ section on my blog at all (where it states clearly how old they are).

2. Make it clear what you expect from the blogger from the outset

Most PRs are great at this, but a few are not. Usually if you’re sent a product to review, then a post in return is a given. However, events aren’t always so clear. Do state when contacting the blogger if you want a post/review of the event, or whether it’s fine just to tweet/FB/Instagram about it. It’s irritating and puts a blogger in an awkward position if they’re told at the event, or afterwards, that a post is expected after all, when they might not have accepted the invite on that basis i.e. it might not be a good fit for them as a blog post.

3. Make initial contact emails personal

Many bloggers really dislike is the generic “I just LOVE your blog!” introduction emails, and can see through them a mile off. A comment about a previous post, or acknowledgement that little Bertie might like the event/product might be nice, and makes the PR memorable to the blogger. I, however, am not precious about this. I appreciate PRs are extremely busy, and if your product/event is something I like, then flattery, even of the faux variety, will get you everywhere!

4. Be flexible with time constraints

Many bloggers, like PRs, are extremely busy people. Most run their blogs alongside other jobs and family commitments, and occasionally life can just get in the way. I like to be punctual wherever possible, but I know bloggers really appreciate it if you’re approachable and flexible when it comes to a blog post, and are okay with a post being a few days later/earlier than planned. Please state if you need a quick turnaround, BEFORE the event takes place/ product is sent out.

5. Manners cost nothing

This should be an obvious one and applies to both bloggers and PRs. I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t had a bad experience with a PR, but I know others who have had PRs send dismissive/rude emails, not emailed back or answered queries, or who have been unpleasant at events. The same goes for bloggers, and there are sadly quite a few who seem to turn into blogging divas at the sniff of a freebie!

6. Know bloggers worth

Okay, so we’re probably not going to flog your chicken sauce like Gordon could, or your dress as well as Kate, BUT things have been on the turn for a while. Talking to friends of mine, most young professionals, married, single, kids, whatever, trust REAL reviews and articles by REAL people, more than celebs. They want to see posts by people like them- it makes the product/event/ end result seem more attainable, and they’re able to see how it might fit in with their lives. We all know we’re not going to look like an airbrushed Cheryl Cole with that mascara, but we might like to see how pretty Hannah from Leeds looks wearing it. Bloggers now have influence. Therefore, bloggers should be compensated accordingly. And don’t think that just being given ‘exposure’ by the client is going to make us jump for joy!

7. Return the favour

If a blogger has written a fantastic review or post about your client, it is BRILLIANT for us if you can tweet about, or better still, put a link to our post on your website. Many bloggers are understandably keen to get their Google page rank up, or take part in blogger charts, both of which take into account that blog’s presence elsewhere on the internet.

8. Bloggers talk…

Being a social media savvy bunch, bloggers talk to each other (a lot). We will probably find out if someone has been paid a different rate to another blogger for the same piece of work, and it’s not nice to find out- it definitely makes the lower-paid blogger feel less valued, and therefore wary of working with the PR again.

9. Give us a challenge!

Many bloggers love taking part in competitions and creative challenges for brands, but the prize has to be worth the time and effort. A year’s supply of bubble wrap (yes, really!), or 50 quids worth of teabags probably isn’t going to encourage those creative juices to flow. I like holidays and vouchers (hint hint).

10. A bit about ethics…

Please don’t ask a blogger to compromise their ethics- asking them to only write a positive review in return for payment/product, is a big no –no, as is asking them to not mention a payment. It’s sneaky, and not fair. Keep it clean, folks!

11. Avoid bloggers with a chip on their shoulder.

I cringe when I see bloggers openly ranting about a brand, service or company on social media, and they give us a bad name. A blogger has every right to complain/take up issues in private, but airing your dirty laundry in public is just, well, ICK. I saw one such spat between a blogger and a big brand on Twitter a few weeks ago and it was, frankly, embarrassing (for the blogger- buh bye any further opportunities!). My advice to PRs would be to avoid bloggers with a ranty tone- it’s too risky, and in my eyes miserable, chippy divas don’t deserve the work or opportunities!

And finally…

12. We like to have fun!

Most bloggers are approachable and love being given relevant opportunities by PRs. I still always feel a little a buzz and very chuffed that PRs appear to like my blog enough to approach me (providing they follow point 1!). Okay, so maybe I’ve got some rose-tinted specs on, but I’d like to think lots of bloggers feel like I do. The moment I feel blasé about these opportunities, is the moment I re-think what I’m doing with my blog.

Phew, that seemed like a lot of info!

If you’re a blogger, what else do you think PRs could do better?

Becky

Photos above taken at a Huggies event with swimmer Karen Pickering, June 2013

A Recipe! Low Carb Creamy Chicken, Bacon, Feta, Leek & Asparagus Dinner

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Okay, I’m not going to lie- the picture above does NOT do justice to what I can assure you is delicious, filling low-carb dish! The lighting wasn’t great when I took this shot and I was not going to faff around trying to get a better picture and let my grub get cold. However, if you are looking for a lower-carb meal, or for something different to put with pasta/rice, then this is one for you. The added bonus of this is that you can also make it cow-dairy free, something that Adam and the children have to have now. We substituted double cream for Alpro soya cream (you really can’t tell the difference once cheese is mixed into the this dish), and used our trusty sheep-alternative, feta, as the cheesy ‘piece de resistance’.

You will need (serves 4):

  • 4 Chicken breasts or 8 thigh fillets (cut into bited-sized chunks)
  • 4 rashers of bacon, chopped into bits
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 200g crumbled feta
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 400ml Single or Soya cream

Instructions:

  1. Pan fry the chicken, bacon and leek in olive oil for about 5 minutes in a coverable skillet or pan, stirring regularly to prevent the leeks burning, until the chicken is nearly cooked and lightly coloured.
  2. Add the asparagus spears and 100ml water and cover on a low-medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover, and stir through the cream and feta cheese, for a further 3 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately with a green salad, or on its own.

Linking up with Honest Mum and Tasty Tuesdays!

 

 

Eagle Heights

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Yesterday we ventured over the M25 into Kent and headed to Eagle Heights. I had never heard of it before, but Adam’s Mum suggested it, and I’m glad she did as we’ve been looking for new, slightly more local places to visit. I love hopping on the train the short ride into central London, but sometimes I feel I have to psyche myself up to do so with both children, especially if we’re out for the day, as we need to load up the buggy with so much stuff! Anyway, doing this sort of thing is a nice change, as we can just bung what we need in the car and off we go.

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^^Eagle Heights is home to a whole menagerie of animals and bird, and as the name suggests, a whole host of feathered friends of the sharp-beaked variety, plus a small playground, BBQ and cafe. Here are some more photos of our day out…

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^^I love escaping into the countryside. I think that’s why I love where we live so much. 20 minutes one way and we are in central London, and a half hour drive and we are looking at this beautiful Kent view. So good for the soul!

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^^Freddie spent much of the day racing about, and uncharacteristically wasn’t that bothered about viewing the birds or animals in their enclosures. He’s being a little ‘testing’ lately, and threw a few strops when we wouldn’t go where he wanted, when he wanted. Definitely finding the ‘Threenager’ stage a lot harder than the so-called terrible twos! I guess small people just like getting from their version of A-B as quickly as possible…

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^^This sign made me laugh, as the one and only camel at EH was miles away, behind 2 large fences, so in absolutely no danger of being touched!

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^^I probably sounded like a right weirdo, snapping away in the toilet, but each cubicle was covered in beautiful hand-painted murals, and they were definitely camera-worthy. They had other ones in the shop and cafe, and each one must have taken the artist AGES to complete. You know what they say about seeing the beauty in everything!

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^^I love this shot of Kayla the eagle landing on her perch. She’s the official Crystal Palace FC ‘Eagle’, and has appeared on a Kings of Leon album. Since we are fans of both of these in our house, it felt (a bit) like meeting a celeb!

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^^We sat and watched Kayla and several other birds of prey in a show. It was incredible, as they swooped right over our heads (F was a bit nervous at first!), but by the end they were loving it, and clapping and cheering!

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^^For someone who is a whirlwind and always on the go, moving from one thing to the next, I am always surprised at how well she sits to watch a show- long may it continue!

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^^^Aaah the map-source of many an argument as both F and S were both wannabe map readers!

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^^Not one of my best shots, but I love this old-skool ‘turtles and tortoise’ poster in the reptile house.

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^^Some more British countryside to end the day, just before the rain came. I think I may have jinxed the weather, as I have been telling friends that we’ve had such a great summer so far, that I would feel we’d had a good one if the sun ended tomorrow. BAD MOVE. With the rest of August looking dubious weather-wise, next time, I will shut my mouth!

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